Nucleotide sugar epimerase (IPR008089)

Short name: Nuc_sugar_epim

Overlapping homologous superfamilies

Family relationships



Carbohydrates are used for a wide variety of functions in animals, plants and microbes. As well as providing the main energy source for most organisms, carbohydrates are ideally suited for molecular recognition [PMID: 11706991]. For example, the stereochemistry of each hydroxyl substituent in a simple six-carbon six-oxygen pyranose ring can be varied to give up to 10 different molecules. An organism's ability to change and control the stereochemistry of moieties like glucose and galactose is, therefore, important.

Epimerases or "dehydratases", enzymes that catalyse these changes in carbohydrates, exist in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. The processes they arbitrate are known as "epimerisation" and are involved in many metabolic pathways [PMID: 9681006]. For example, the UDP-galactose epimerase in Arabidopsis thaliana (Mouse-ear cress) mediates the reversible epimerisation of UDP-galactose, and is considered essential for this reason, providing a secondary growth metabolite to glucose [PMID: 9681006].

Bacterial homologues of the mouse-ear cress epimerase are involved in the synthesis of extracellular polysaccharide capsule components, as well as metabolic pathways [PMID: 9596722]. For this reason, they are considered virulence factors if present in a pathogenic strain. Vibrio vulnificus, the causative agent of septicemia and infectious disease from contaminated seafood, relies on a thick polysaccharide capsule to evade host immune cells [PMID: 9596722]. Epimerase deletion mutants were unable to infect a mouse model, suggesting that the gene is essential for bacterial virulence. Deletion studies with other capsular pathogens, like Staphylococcus aureus, have shown that the epimerase enzyme is needed for capsule polysaccharide formation and, ultimately, virulence.

GO terms

Biological Process

GO:0005975 carbohydrate metabolic process

Molecular Function

GO:0016857 racemase and epimerase activity, acting on carbohydrates and derivatives

Cellular Component

No terms assigned in this category.

Contributing signatures

Signatures from InterPro member databases are used to construct an entry.